On August 15th, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, it’s common to see the extreme right doing their thing at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. The same is also true for National Foundation Day on February 11th — events I’ve photographed and written briefly about before. A few favourites being this uniform-clad old man last summer, a large gathering of like-minded extremists a few years ago, and further back still, some atmospheric scenes in the snow.
So, due to them being so oddly fascinating, I did the same again on Monday. Just as they did what they usually do too.
But that’s not the whole story of course. There were many thousands of ordinary people, very ordinarily paying their respects. Plus, it has to be said, a very select few doing something that one really wouldn’t call typical at all.
Wow that is quite the little smirk he has. I don’t want to know what he is thinking about:)
I know. Although the look on the doll’s face suggests it might be something very untoward!
This is gonna sound unlikely, but I feel like I know that guy with the nurse doll. If it’s really who I think it is, we went to grade school and junior high together. Looks exactly like him anyway, or what I expect he’d look like now.
Here’s the thing: he was kind of â€œspecialâ€. He was doing uniform cosplay in the late 1970s, and was kind of a school mascot. He frequently donned IJA uniforms – attended school that way. We thought it was funny. A completely harmless fellow. Made an excellent student fire marshal at our school. He was always a baby-faced guy. He got held back a couple times, but he was sort of beloved.
If that’s him, I’d wager he has little idea what the wider political meaning of his attire represents to the rest of the world. He used to run down the school halls making airplane sounds – when he was thirteen. He had his senior yearbook portrait taken in an IJN officers uniform.
The key thing would be if this guy can speak English fluently, or not. Our school was ASIJ. Did you get a chance to speak with him? Even if it’s just my imagination, it reminded me of a very gentle, rather misunderstood soul I once knew.
I occurs to me some of these folks might actually be similarly special – and not in a threatening, or dangerous way. Just in a world of their own. Most of course, aren’t. No excuses for them.
That’s pretty amazing if it is your old classmate. Certainly sounds like it could be. That must have been quite a shock for you.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to him. Simply too many people about. Wish I had of done though, as it would have probably gone a long way to confirming if it was him or not.
I totally agree. His presence was very different from that of the nationalists. A little misguided perhaps considering the magnitude of the day and place, but no harm meant at all.
Ha, that is NOT something I expected to see! 😮 Why………?
Why is a very good question, but sadly I have no answer at all…
Such clarity and detail. I can almost smell the boot polish.
I have the vision of the guy front and centre preparing to perform a theatrical “we are not worthy” bow to you on behalf of himself and his vanguard. They must be starting to recognise you by now.
I love the idea it might be the guy you remember, squidpuppy, but if he is in his 50s he is bloody well preserved 🙂
The child manequin. Yeah. Not sure about that. If it were a fleamarket then maybe. If I were Sherlock Holmes I’d know what kind of job/ailment resulted in thumbnails like he has. But I don’t.
Good to hear.
Haha, that’s the last thing they’d be doing! That said, they weren’t annoyed at all about me crouching where I was. Nor was anything said when they’d finished. But I suppose doing what they do, they expect to be photographed. Probably even want to be.
Hadn’t thought about being recognised, but being a foreigner and all that, some of them may well have noticed me a few times. Might actually be a good thing. A bit of familiarity could make taking future photographs easier.
Good call on the thumbnails. A story there I presume, although similarly I have no idea what that story could be.
Yeah, now I’ve thought about it more, it seems unlikelier still – the age factor being a problem. One thing though, about my old classmate, his attention to detail was astounding. Not unlike this fellow.
On a somewhat sketchier note, I’m not sure that’s a mannequin. It looks to me like another “kind” of doll entirely. I’ve seen photos of other odd duck males wheeling their “companions” around Tokyo.
I often find it difficult guessing someones age. Particularly Japanese people. Anywhere from his late 20s to mid 40s wouldn’t surprise me. Would have to be a bit older to be the man you are thinking of though yeah? Still, not out of the realms of possiblity.
Agreed. Way more than simple mannequin…
I am delighted to be able to read some of the banner text .. .the date!
The museum seems to sell hats so I was wondering if there was a connection, a borrowing, or an effort to connect the site with younger people for commemorative photos.. Either way the guy seems to have made it to the Hindustan Times*, besides Tokyo Times but without his friend in the former case.. I just hope he doesn’t have to take her home on the bus.
– photo #4
The date is always good start. Important as well.
Ah, yes. There he is. The old fella sat to his left is there every year. Got a couple of photos of him too, but the plastic chair ruined the look for me.
That’s funny. I can just imagine him on a packed bus or train home, awkwardly apologising for the space his companion is taking up. Not to mention the looks he’d get.
I wonder what the veteran thought of the mannequin.
Interesting the Hindustan Times photo just keeps the doll cropped out of shot (assuming it was in the same place). Perhaps they just couldn’t think of what caption to put.
Inspired by John’s find I came across this video (https://youtu.be/ueh6IxDUu7k) from the same spot in 2012. The mannequin is there, (4:18), in a slight different uniform, but still medical. Her minder is also there, carrying a puple bordered banner in the parade slightly later.
So there must be a good reason for her presence.
Yeah, I’ve seen it there before. Only took a photo this time as the fella was stood next to it. Made it more interesting. Plus it gave the scene at least some sort of context.
Perhaps why the Times decided not to include.
With it being a regular, the old man is probably used to it. Whether he agrees with its presence or not. But yeah, there has to be a reason. Possibly a perfectly legitimate one. Although what that could be I don’t know…
If I’m there next year, I’ll simply have to ask.
There’s a lot going on there (from the video)…and the mannequin expression is different. Maybe there are two, or the first one was left on the bus? It all certainly helps to see the bigger picture even if it doesn’t clarify it. Thanks,
Yes, a differen head perhaps? Or if not, I do hope it’s not sat forlornly in lost property somewhere.
Interesting to see some familiar faces. A good few new ones too. Yasukuni is such a complicated place, with a lot of people having a lot of different reasons for going. Certainly not as black and white as it is often painted.
Checking out that video, I’m really starting to think that’s no mannequin… but y’know, um, don’t really want to go there.
Back more to the topic at hand, I’ll be in Tokyo in October, so I think I’ll stop by Yasukuni. I never visited when I lived over there. I hear it has an interesting museum.
I know what you mean, but to avoid thoughts I’d rather not deal with, let’s just stick at a simple doll eh, even though we all know there’s a possibility of it being far more…
Intersting is definitely a good description. Years since I went there, but some of the descriptions of the exhibits and photos were very much open to debate. Not exactly a re-writing of history, but very much a reinterpretation.
Who knows how deep this particular rabbit hole goes.
It seems there was a tradition of women sending mascot dolls to servicemen. I’ve just finished reading a piece on them in the Journal of Japanese Studies. I wonder if this is some kind of extension of that.
I also discovered that a Mr Hyodo makes the dolls (http://tinyurl.com/z2pmp3c). I really must get on with my day job now…
Blimey the plot thickens. Excellent bit of research. Had heard about those dolls, but need to read a bit more about them now.
And Yoshitaka Hyodo is a love doll maker. So that has confirmed the nature of the nurse. A carer in every sense!
Went to an exhibition a while ago actually, that along with photos of old, themed love hotels, had what could have been one of Hyodo-san’s creations. Hugely expensive things. And yet while sort or realistic, at the same time they simply aren’t. There’s an iPhone photo here on my Instagram page, which is perfectly safe to view: https://goo.gl/XZGuwe
Like I always say, doesn’t get much better than the comments. That second picture may be one of my favorites.
Yes, I’m incredibly fortunate with the comments I get, and of course the commenters. Something I’m alway very grateful for.
Good to hear. Initially got one of him looking at me, which, while fairly interesting ‘cos of the doll, didn’t quite do it for me. Then for a split second he glanced down at the doll, and I immediately knew that was interesting on every count.